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The 1ac endorses a model of energy policy that perpetuates the neoliberal appropriation of technology and public resources



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The 1ac endorses a model of energy policy that perpetuates the neoliberal appropriation of technology and public resources


Harvey '5 David, David Harvey is the Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. "A Brief History of Neoliberalism" http://messhall.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/A-Brief-History-of-Neoliberalism.pdf
Neoliberals are particularly assiduous in seeking the privatization of assets. The absence of clear private property rights––as in many developing countries––is seen as one of the greatest of all institutional barriers to economic development and the improvement of human welfare. Enclosure and the assignment of private property rights is considered the best way to protect against the socalled ‘tragedy of the commons’ (the tendency for individuals to irresponsibly super-exploit common property resources such as land and water). Sectors formerly run or regulated by the state must be turned over to the private sphere and be deregulated (freed from any state interference). Competition––between individuals, between firms, between territorial entities (cities, regions, nations, regional groupings)––is held to be a primary virtue. The ground-rules for market competition must be properly observed, of course. In situations where such rules are not clearly laid out or where property rights are hard to define, the state must use its power to impose or invent market systems (such as trading in pollution rights). Privatization and deregulation combined with competition, it is claimed, eliminate bureaucratic red tape, increase efficiency and productivity, improve quality, and reduce costs, both directly to the consumer through cheaper commodities and services and indirectly through reduction of the tax burden. The neoliberal state should persistently seek out internal reorganizations and new institutional arrangements that improve its competitive position as an entity vis-à-vis other states in the global market. While personal and individual freedom in the marketplace is guaranteed, each individual is held responsible and accountable for his or her own actions and well-being. This principle extends into the realms of welfare, education, health care, and even pensions (social security has been privatized in Chile and Slovakia, and proposals exist to do the same in the US). Individual success or failure are interpreted in terms of entrepreneurial virtues or personal failings (such as not investing significantly enough in one’s own human capital through education) rather than being attributed to any systemic property (such as the class exclusions usually attributed to capitalism). The free mobility of capital between sectors, regions, and countries is regarded as crucial. All barriers to that free movement (such as tariffs, punitive taxation arrangements, planning and environmental controls, or other locational impediments) have to be removed, except in those areas crucial to ‘the national interest’, however that is defined. State sovereignty over commodity and capital movements is willingly surrendered to the global market. International competition is seen as healthy since it improves efficiency and productivity, lowers prices, and thereby controls inflationary tendencies. States should therefore collectively seek and negotiate the reduction of barriers to movement of capital across borders and the opening of markets (for both commodities and capital) to global exchange. Whether or not this applies to labour as a commodity is, however, controversial. To the degree that all states must collaborate to reduce barriers to exchange, so co-ordinating structures such as the group of advanced capitalist nations (the US, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, and Japan) known as the G7 (now the G8 with the addition of Russia) must arise. International agreements between states guaranteeing the rule of law and freedoms of trade, such as those now incorporated in the World Trade Organization agreements, are critical to the advancement of the neoliberal project on the global stage. Neoliberal theorists are, however, profoundly suspicious of democracy. Governance by majority rule is seen as a potential threat to individual rights and constitutional liberties. Democracy is viewed as a luxury, only possible under conditions of relative affluence coupled with a strong middle-class presence to guarantee political stability. Neoliberals therefore tend to favour governance by experts and elites. A strong preference exists for government by executive order and by judicial decision rather than democratic and parliamentary decision-making. Neoliberals prefer to insulate key institutions, such as the central bank, from democratic pressures. Given that neoliberal theory centres on the rule of law and a strict interpretation of constitutionality, it follows that conflict and opposition must be mediated through the courts. Solutions and remedies to any problems have to be sought by individuals through the legal system. Tensions and Contradictions There are some shadowy areas as well as points of conflict within the general theory of the neoliberal state. First, there is the problem of how to interpret monopoly power. Competition often results in monopoly or oligopoly, as stronger firms drive out weaker. Most neoliberal theorists consider this unproblematic (it should, they say, maximize efficiency) provided there are no substantial barriers to the entry of competitors (a condition often hard to realize and which the state may therefore have to nurture). The case of so-called ‘natural monopolies’ is more difficult. It makes no sense to have multiple competing electrical power grids, gas pipelines, water and sewage systems, or rail links between Washington and Boston. State regulation of provision, access, and pricing seems unavoidable in such domains. While partial deregulation may be possible (permitting competing producers to feed electricity into the same grid or run trains on the same tracks, for example) the possibilities for profiteering and abuse, as the California power crisis of 2002 abundantly showed, or for deadly muddle and confusion, as the British rail situation has proven, are very real. The second major arena of controversy concerns market failure. This arises when individuals and firms avoid paying the full costs attributable to them by shedding their liabilities outside the market (the liabilities are, in technical parlance, ‘externalized’). The classic case is that of pollution, where individuals and firms avoid costs by dumping noxious wastes free of charge in the environment. Productive ecosystems may be degraded or destroyed as a result. Exposure to dangerous substances or physical dangers in the workplace may affect human health and even deplete the pool of healthy labourers in the workforce. While neoliberals admit the problem and some concede the case for limited state intervention, others argue for inaction because the cure will almost certainly be worse than the disease. Most would agree, however, that if there are to be interventions these should work through market mechanisms (via tax impositions or incentives, trading rights of pollutants, and the like). Competitive failures are approached in a similar fashion. Rising transaction costs can be incurred as contractual and subcontractual relations proliferate. The vast apparatus of currency speculation, to take just one example, appears more and more costly at the same time as it becomes more and more fundamental to capturing speculative profits. Other problems arise when, say, all competing hospitals in a region buy the same sophisticated equipment that remains underutilized, thus driving up aggregate costs. The case here for cost containment through state planning, regulation, and forced co-ordination is strong, but again neoliberals are deeply suspicious of such interventions. All agents acting in the market are generally presumed to have access to the same information. There are presumed to be no asymmetries of power or of information that interfere with the capacity of individuals to make rational economic decisions in their own interests. This condition is rarely, if ever, approximated in practice, and there are significant consequences.2 Better informed and more powerful players have an advantage that can all too easily be parlayed into procuring even better information and greater relative power. The establishment of intellectual property rights (patents), furthermore, encourages ‘rent seeking’. Those who hold the patent rights use their monopoly power to set monopoly prices and to prevent technology transfers except at a very high cost. Asymmetric power relations tend, therefore, to increase rather than diminish over time unless the state steps in to counteract them. The neoliberal presumption of perfect information and a level playing field for competition appears as either innocently utopian or a deliberate obfuscation of processes that will lead to the concentration of wealth and, therefore, the restoration of class power. The neoliberal theory of technological change relies upon the coercive powers of competition to drive the search for new products, new production methods, and new organizational forms. This drive becomes so deeply embedded in entrepreneurial common sense, however, that it becomes a fetish belief: that there is a technological fix for each and every problem. To the degree that this takes hold not only within corporations but also within the state apparatus (in the military in particular), it produces powerful independent trends of technological change that can become destabilizing, if not counterproductive. Technological developments can run amok as sectors dedicated solely to technological innovation create new products and new ways of doing things that as yet have no market (new pharmaceutical products are produced, for which new illnesses are then invented). Talented interlopers can, furthermore, mobilize technological innovations to undermine dominant social relations and institutions; they can, through their activities, even reshape common sense to their own pecuniary advantage. There is an inner connection, therefore, between technological dynamism, instability, dissolution of social solidarities, environmental degradation, deindustrialization, rapid shifts in time–space relations, speculative bubbles, and the general tendency towards crisis formation within capitalism.3 There are, finally, some fundamental political problems within neoliberalism that need to be addressed. A contradiction arises between a seductive but alienating possessive individualism on the one hand and the desire for a meaningful collective life on the other. While individuals are supposedly free to choose, they are not supposed to choose to construct strong collective institutions (such as trade unions) as opposed to weak voluntary associations (like charitable organizations). They most certainly should not choose to associate to create political parties with the aim of forcing the state to intervene in or eliminate the market. To guard against their greatest fears––fascism, communism, socialism, authoritarian populism, and even majority rule––the neoliberals have to put strong limits on democratic governance, relying instead upon undemocratic and unaccountable institutions (such as the Federal Reserve or the IMF) to make key decisions. This creates the paradox of intense state interventions and government by elites and ‘experts’ in a world where the state is supposed not to be interventionist. One is reminded of Francis Bacon’s utopian tale New Atlantis (first published in 1626) where a Council of Wise Elders mandates all key decisions. Faced with social movements that seek collective interventions, therefore, the neoliberal state is itself forced to intervene, sometimes repressively, thus denying the very freedoms it is supposed to uphold. In this situation, however, it can marshal one secret weapon: international competition and globalization can be used to discipline movements opposed to the neoliberal agenda within individual states. If that fails, then the state must resort to persuasion, propaganda or, when necessary, raw force and police power to suppress opposition to neoliberalism. This was precisely Polanyi’s fear: that the liberal (and by extension the neoliberal) utopian project could only ultimately be sustained by resort to authoritarianism. The freedom of the masses would be restricted in favour of the freedoms of the few.


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